Sufism played an important role in the retention of Chechen cultural identity during thirteen years of exile. In particular, the traditions of the Vis Haji branch of the Quadiri Sufi order helped ensure that language and cultural practices were passed on to children through Arabic classes conducted in secret. Religious rituals were maintained in popular ceremonies such as Vis Haji zikr , which featured stringed instruments, drums, and dancing.
The Soviet authorities were more forthright than their tsarist predecessors in their persecution of Islam, closing mosques and targeting Islamic leaders for imprisonment and murder. As a result, Chechen culture became mostly secularized under Soviet rule. “The closure of all but a handful of mosques, and the virtual end of religious education, meant that knowledge of Islam had nearly evaporated."19 Nonetheless, the informal and elusive nature of the Sufi orders allowed the tariqua to thrive as underground organizations during the persecutions and deportations of the Soviet era. In the absence of official institutions which represented their interests, Sufi brotherhoods remained one of the most effective organs for maintaining Islamic tradition and coordinating resistance to Russian dominance in Chechnya. During and after the deportations, the musical and spiritual tradition of zikr continued to play an essential part in maintaining the identity of Muslim Chechens, Dagestanis, and Ingushetians. Journalist Sebastian Smith concurs, "The zikr ritual formed an unbreakable shield around these people's sense of identity and self confidence."20
The Chechen population remained in captivity until Stalin's death in 1953. In an attempt to diminish the association with his predecessor's legacy, Nikita Khrushchev publicly acknowledged the deportations for the first time when the camps were opened in 1956. He continued, however, to sponsor the repression of Chechen religious and cultural traditions. One of the means used to subvert the influence of Chechen nationalism during the Khrushchev era was rewriting the histories of non-Russian peoples. Before 1956, historical accounts written in the Soviet Union made scant mention of the legendary Caucasian murid Imam Shamil. After September 1956, history books in the Soviet Union were allowed to include entries on Shamil, although it was clear that authors should emphasize his resistance to tsarist authority rather than his general anti-Russian stance.21 The Chechens organized their own return to their native land, only to find that much of the scarcely available farmland had been resettled by ethnic Russians. Although the Chechen population had lost over half of its numbers during the exile, ethnic solidarity, strong family ties, and a high birth rate helped ensure their demographic recovery. Upon their return, Chechens found that many Mazars (traditional grave sites) had been demolished, and their access to mosques had been restricted. Memory of the desecration of monuments and religious sites during the deportations continues to inspire Chechen fighters in the present day. In the 1990s, Chechen commander Shamil Basayev testified to the continued importance of historical memory in inspiring Chechen resistance. "When Stalin deported us, the Russians took over our empty homes and ripped the stones out of our graveyards, then they used them to make roads, bridges, pigsties."22 The deportations proved to be another defining event in the development of Chechen historical consciousness. Some scholars argue that memory of the deportations became the most important component of Chechen national identity, “More even than the wars of Shamil in the nineteenth century, the memory of the deportations became the central defining event in Chechen history."23
Although records available in the United States do not indicate evidence of further folklore-gathering expeditions into Chechnya-Ingushetia between 1935 and 1962, a collection published almost a decade after Stalin's death confirms that the performance of Chechen folk music continued during and after the deportations. After a gap of almost thirty years, another compilation of Chechen and Ingush folksongs was published in 1962 by Nikolai Rechmenskii, who was one among the first generation of Chechen composers trained in Soviet conservatories.24 An examination of this collection reveals both the development of nationalist folk songs and the Westernization of Chechen folk music. Rechmenskii is more thorough than Davidenko in his description of how the songs were collected and transcribed. According to Rechmenskii, the folk songs were transcribed directly from recordings collected during two major folk music-gathering expeditions performed by five Soviet musicologists. The first took place between 1938 and 1939 . The second expedition was carried out between 1958 and 1960. Rechmenskii's collection includes a detailed appendix which lists the date and location of each recording and in some cases indicates the instrumentation which frequently consists of traditional stringed instruments and accordions.25
The first two songs of Rechmenskii's collection stand out, the titles of which, unlike those in the Davidenko's collection, emphasize nationalist themes. Song no.1 is a Chechen anthem entitled, “My Dear Chechnya.” Song no.2 is entitled "Chechen Partisan Song," which seems to be a tribute to Chechen resistance fighters. Both songs were recorded in 1959, six years after the death of Stalin. Why was there such a large gap between the folklore-gathering experiments and why did earlier collections make no mention of nationalist themes? In general, Soviet leaders would not have tolerated overt references to nationalism and resistance in regional folklore. The lack of further collections of Chechen-Ingush folk music after 1935 could be explained by Stalin's distrust of the nationalist threat in the north Caucasus, which was exemplified by his crackdowns against Chechen uprisings in the late 1930s. Musicologists may have been hesitant to report folk songs with nationalist themes during Stalin's lifetime. It is also possible that other collections of Caucasian music between 1935 and 1962 exist in non-English language databases.
The unaccompanied melody of Song no.1 “My Dear Chechnya” consists of a descending motive of two eighth notes and a quarter note (score example 2, listening example 3).26 The pitches and key signature indicate that the melody is in the key of C Major although there is no clear indication of a particular mode. In the harmonized version of the anthem (score example 3, listening example 4), there also seem to be no preferred intervals for harmonization, although the dissonant interval of a major second occurs quite frequently. According to the conventions of tonal harmony in western music, dissonant intervals are most often used to create tension before resolving to consonant intervals. In this example, it is common for phrases to end on dissonant or inconclusive sonorities, such as in measure 8, which concludes on an unresolved suspended E chord. The harmonization of "My Dear Chechnya" is similar to the of "Song of a Shepherd" from Davidenko's collection in its modal construction, triadic voicing, and the prevalence of the interval of a major second. "Song of a Shepherd" however, features a more complex polyphonic texture with an independent lower and upper voice, while "My Dear Chechnya" is strictly homophonic. Without recordings, it is impossible to determine which harmonization is most authentic.
“Chechen Partisan Song” is included in Rechmenskii's edition in both monophonic and harmonized forms, the harmonized version shifts between F dorian and E-flat Ionian modes (score example 4, listening example 5, listening example 6).27 “My Dear Chechnya” and “Chechen Partisan Song” are harmonized similarly, and tend to lack common attributes of tonal composition such as plagal (IV-I) and authentic (V-I) cadences. Another unique dimension of Chechen harmonization found in these examples is the tendency for the melody to be played by the middle or lower voice in a three voice texture.28 Much like Davidenko, Rechmenskii claims to have retained the original folk harmonization. Based on these examples, Chechen harmony clearly observes a practice distinct from the conventional standards of western music in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These compositions seem to share certain common features with the practice of continental European composers during the Medieval era. These include the frequent use of the perfect fifth in creating harmony and the employment of modal rather than tonal centers.